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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

ALEXANDER  VON  HUMBOLBT.               235
boldt his life. When he arrived at the top, he pro-
ceeded onwards over the snow to cross a deep chasm,
not imagining that the bridge over this chasm con-
sisted only of a fragile layer of frozen snow. At the
first step he sank, and would have been lost had not
adequate assistance been at hand. Higher still than
Picliiricha, in the Cordilleras of the Andes, lies an-
other crater called Cotopaxi, which interested Hum-
boldt all the more because it is the highest active
volcano of the modern world. It is 17,892 feet (2952
toises) high, therefore, if the Brenner of Tyrol were
placed on the top of the peak of Teneriffe, the two
together would only be the absolute height of the
OotopazL The whole district fears this volcano as ^
most dangerous enemy, for its eruptions have always
been extremely desolating in their effects. In the year
1738 the flames rose 462 toises in circumference above
the brim of the crater ; in 1740 its roaring was heard
at a distance of 200 miles., at Honda, on the Magdalen
stream ; in the year 1768 it ejected so many ashes that
the air was darkened, and the nocturnal darkness lasted
till three o'clock in the afternoon, so that the inhabi-
tants of Hambata and Taeunga were obliged to go on
the streets with lanterns; and in 1803, after Hum-
boldt had been there, it spread great alarm, by one of
the phenomena preceding the eruption, namely, that
all the snow suddenly melted, evidencing a dreadful
heat of the crater.
In order to reach this dangerous volcano, Humboldt
took the way south-east of the town of Quito, in the
Andes. It was a journey of twelve (German) miles.
The form of the mountain was majestic, colossal, and
very regular in its cone. The tops, covered with a
brilliant mantle of snow, shone in the setting sun in
beautiful colours, and no irregularity of the soil, sto
rock or stone intercepts the radiance of the white sur-
face. Humboldt only remarked some dbagle dark
pieces on the extreme verge of the crater, which, like
those OB the peak of Tenerifife, resembled a will or
rampart.